Monday, December 04, 2006

World Politics and Strategy

Gary Kasparov, former world chess champion, one of the greatest chess players of all time, weighs in on global politics and Iraq in particular. From Chessboard Endgame: Obsessed with Iraq, we've lost sight of the rest of the world in the Wall Street Journal.
For the past few years, the dictators and terrorists have been gaining ground, and with good reason. The deepening catastrophe in Iraq has distracted the world's sole superpower from its true goals, and weakened the U.S. politically as well as militarily. With new congressional leadership threatening to make the same mistake--failing to see Iraq as only one piece of a greater puzzle--it is time to return to the basics of strategic planning.

Thirty years as a chess player ingrained in me the importance of never losing sight of the big picture. Paying too much attention to one area of the chessboard can quickly lead to the collapse of your entire position. America and its allies are so focused on Iraq they are ceding territory all over the map. Even the vague goals of President Bush's ambiguous war on terror have been pushed aside by the crisis in Baghdad.

The U.S. must refocus and recognize the failure of its post-9/11 foreign policy. Pre-emptive strikes and deposing dictators may or may not have been a good plan, but at least it was a plan. However, if you attack Iraq, the potential to go after Iran and Syria must also be on the table. Instead, the U.S. finds itself supervising a civil war while helplessly making concessions elsewhere.

Readers of State Street know I really like this remark too because I have made similar comments.

So what then, to do? "Mission accomplished" jokes aside, the original goals in Iraq--deposing Saddam Hussein and holding elections--have been achieved. Nation-building was never on the agenda, and it should not be added now. All the allied troops in the world aren't going to stop the Iraqi people from continuing their civil war if this is their choice. As long as Muslim leaders in Iraq and elsewhere are unwilling to confront their own radical elements, outsiders will be spectators in the line of fire.

Whether you agree or disagree with Kasparov’s politics, he does make an important point about strategy and pragmatic concerns in this article.

Many days, my frustration with Iraq and the so-called war on terror is that many people want to put their theoretical and ideological concerns first rather than look at the pragmatic consequences of the disaster and failed strategy. Of course, theory and ideology are important. Everybody has a theoretical and ideological framework that helps her or him make sense of the world. That does not excuse or give reason to continue committing the same mistakes and deny the facts of particular situations.

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